||LEGENDS OF ROCK - THE ORIGINALS
Vauxhall Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth
16th-19th October 2014
Liz Medhurst: Photos by Sean Cameron
Vauxhall Holiday Park was the setting for one of the best weekends of the year, and the perfect end to the summer festival season.
When an event containing 45 quality bands is put on by Classic Rock Tours and stage managed by Bloated Monkey, you know that you are in for a good time. Add to this the magnificent hosting by Krusher Joule and Mike Belgrave with between band entertainment from Gary Rokjok Lewis and that's everything ticked.
The line-up was a complete triumph, the quantity of "must-sees" on the bill is the highest that I can remember at a festival; this was real wish-list stuff with plenty of variety. Even though it wasn't possible to see everyone, there was nothing lacking from this event – and a return next year is a complete no-brainer.
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The first full day started at midday Friday and there was no way I could get there in time for the start. This was disappointing as the first band was Dr And The Medics, who had put on a stonking show at The Half Moon Putney recently so they were on the list to catch, but sadly not meant to be.
So we called Clive, the good doctor himself, and asked him to write his own review of his set. He said:
"Dr and The Medics came onstage at midday on Friday to open proceedings and blew everyone away with their set. They were undoubtedly the best act of the festival and people will be talking about them for years to come."
To make sure this article keeps to the expected level of accuracy I ran this past a few others who were there and no-one disagreed, so there we are – that's what I missed.
I did catch a good part of Chicken Shack though, as Stan Webb showed us the skills that contributed to the British Blues explosion of the 60s which conquered the music world. It was good to see, although my heart will always be with the Christine Perfect era of the band as she was, well, perfect.
A quick dash next door saw Ulysses gave a tight performance, ending the set by proving the old adage that there is always room for more cowbell. With their cool hats, and tight classic rock and roll riffs there was much here that impressed.
Back on the main stage Splintered Soul drew the audience in with their own brand of Cinematic Metal, and put on a dramatic and impressive set. Imagine Halo, Destiny, Arabian Knights, The Rose Of The Prophet novels and Prince Of Persia put into a blender with lashings of Metal and then served up with a touch of glamour and you would be pretty close.
Their first album 'Lore' has been delayed due to personal and logistical reasons but it sounds like it will be worth the wait. Hopefully a release date will appear soon as these are big, epic, intelligent tracks that stand up for repeated listening.
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown may be a bit left of field for some, but not me. Arthur is still showing us what a prodigious artist he is and he and his excellent band delivered a timeless psychedelic feast.
Starting with 'Zim Zam Zim', the adventurer who flits between worlds, universes, lives and realities, we were all taken on a journey of heavy grooves that was utter bliss. Arthur's stage presence is mesmerizing, still thrilling with his talent and showmanship and innovation. Every member of the band was outstanding, with special mention to Angel Flame, the wonderful dancer who added an extra dimension to the songs. The whole thing was perfect.
After this it was up to Marcus Malone to bring us back down to earth and he did this superbly. It is rare to find a perfect execution of blues rock but the man from Detroit with the shit hot band did. The latest album 'Stand Or Fall' is nominated for best album in the European Blues Award and would be a worthy winner.
Mostly Autumn always put in a great live set and this year has seen them with a harder edge, showcasing the 'Dressed To Kill' album; they continue to be on top form.
Skinny Molly provided Southern delights which led us into the evening nicely. A band that don't provide anything widely original but play their genre to excellence, with solid grooves and licks.
Voodoo Six were next on the bill, but unable to play due to vocalist Luke Purdie leaving the band two days previously due to illness, with no time to arrange a guest vocalist. Classic Rock Tours forte is the Megajam however, so guitarist Matt Pearce led around a dozen permutations of Voodoo One And The Arsechickens, a special one-time only event hastily arranged with triumphant results. Musicians from at least seven other bands in attendance led us through some classic tracks to great effect.
Friday night's headliners The Quireboys were totally on form tonight, Spike and the boys were roaring with energy, the 30 year anniversary celebrations joyful and crazy, the songs were tight and the audience were in good voice. The party was well and truly on.
Prior to The Quireboys, Alabama 3 had delighted with their mix of subversive humour wrapped in a funk-blues-electronica-gospel coating, but it was the aftermath that people will be talking about in years to come. What happens on the Alabama 3 tour bus... almost stayed in the Alabama 3 tour bus, quite literally.
A disclaimer here – I had nothing to do with the following, I was being a good scribe and getting some sleep by this point, I am merely recounting the tale...
While holding an after-show party with a bus load of revellers the door became jammed, the lock catching due to the excessive movement. When this was noticed, some mistakenly thought that that this had been done deliberately, leading to a hilarious sequence of voicemail messages left for our Head of Product Reviews (so random! Why?!) that frankly sounded like an episode of The Sopranos. A condensed one where everything had been left out apart from the swearing and the violence.
When this was met with no response, as it was after dawn and everyone else was asleep, the revellers made distress calls all the way back to London in the hope that someone in Yarmouth could be roused. A triumph of hope over experience.
With a sterling show of tenacity, our London rescue agent finally got hold of Krusher. His response? An eminently reasonable: "No I haven't got the bloody keys, I'm only the DJ, and anyway it's their own bloody faults for partying with Alabama 3, you reap what you sow."
Meanwhile back on the bus an escape route had been found via one of the windows, a result that worked so well that some even climbed back in again...
Krusher did join in with the rescue mission though, saying: "My role was that of a Saint Bernard, thee litres of Wyld Wood cider was strapped round my neck. A wizard of locks cast his spell and we entered the bus."
Thankfully he had the great presence of mind to capture the moment of release, and reaction from Rev D Wayne Love for our continued enjoyment and you can see it by clicking here.
So with nobody entertaining the idea of pacing themselves, Saturday had a lot to live up to and fortunately it got off to a flying start with Praying Mantis. The NWOBHM stalwarts had gone down a storm at Merton Manor just a few hours previously and Tino, Chris and the boys performed the lunchtime set with power and energy, looking like they were enjoying every minute.
The Metal continued with Oliver Dawson Saxon – headed up by original guitarist and bassist Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson. The mighty tracks rang out, vocalist Bri Shaughnessey was more than up for the task and the set was a triumph.
The first major clash came at 3.00pm with a decision between Alix Anthony or Buster James. Funky power trio or raucous good-time party blues? It was a tough one, but Alix just pipped it, and the set was packed with energetic tracks that had us all up and dancing for the duration.
Stonewire then gave us a powerful set highlighting their brilliant debut album 'When The Crow Flies'. I keep going on about this album to anyone who will listen, but it really is that good. The passion and energy of the live set is immersive, and the hour flew by. Sky Hunter's vocals were as compelling as always, and now the line-up has been boosted to include dual lead guitars this satisfied on all counts.
The Pat McManus Band are always captivating to watch and today was no exception with Celtic blues rock delivered with The Professor's famous smile. From hard edged grit to foot stompers to haunting tributes to past greats the power trio did what they excel at - infusing the room with happiness.
Bernie Torme played a blinder, but there again he always does. Showcasing songs from his new album 'Flowers And Dirt' and classics such as 'New Orleans' and 'Trouble' from the Gillan days, Bernie is a legend and this storming set confirmed that.
The Blockheads kept the energy high, the art-rock, new-wave and jazz influenced sound still sounding fresh. The outstanding band, headed up by Norman Watt-Roy and Chaz Jankel bookended the set with 'Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll' and 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' and there wasn't a duff track in between, and plenty of opportunity for more dancing.
Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash, or as they now have to be called, Martin Turner Plays The Music Of Wishbone Ash had a rare off night. I have seen this line-up many times and always loved every minute, but tonight a lot of the spark had gone. From Martin coming on stage without his bass to more dropped notes than usual and an air of disengagement, this was disappointing. Still, the songs are so good and we know that when on form this band can knock it out of the park so it is hoped that they are back to all cylinders soon.
Snakecharmer were the real headliners of Saturday night, with their blend of Whitesnake classics and new tracks, vocalist Chris Ousey adding melodic rock smoothness to the grittier blues sound and the blend being very tasty indeed. No Harry James on drums tonight as he was in Japan with Thunder, but Moody, Murray and co captivated and delighted.
Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were due to close proceedings for Saturday but it was all a damp squib. They came on 35 minutes late, without a word of explanation, there was little engagement with the audience and although the band are undoubtedly very talented the style was all a bit cabaret and not at all suited to the event. Popular opinion at the bar was that Oliver Dawson Saxon would have filled this slot much better.
By Sunday things were looking a bit grim on the glamour front. I had forgotten to bring my shampoo so the festival curls had descended into a cross between Valerie from The Princess Bride and a tangled Dougal from The Magic Roundabout.
I didn't think too much of this however as I figured it was just about acceptable for this stage in proceedings. Of course the first person I bumped in to in the venue was the Editor who had just breakfasted on a huge Sunday roast dinner and his curls were clean, soft and shiny. Oh well, it's fairly dark in the venue, just have to get on with it and style it out.
The first band of the day I saw were Persian Risk demonstrating excellent musicianship, especially from guest guitarist Howie G, with vocalist Carl Sentance impressing with his performance on the songs, if not the between song banter.
Curved Air were a real treat. Sonia Kristina and the band excel at their progressive, melodic layered sound, songs with real complexity and emotional intelligence. Stand-out tracks like 'Stay Human' and 'Propositions' highlighted the quality that runs through all of their output from the early 70s to this year's recent album 'North Star'.
The treat of the day was provided by the next band. Stray, led by the charismatic Del Bromham, are criminally under-rated and one of the best rock bands this country has produced and Del's showmanship and audience connection is impeccable. This is another band whose recent output matches that of their earlier classics; no resting on laurels here. As we all sang along to 'I Believe It', it was hard to think of anywhere better to be.
It was all getting a bit trippy now, a kind of "kid in a sweet shop" syndrome. So many amazing acts, very few disappointments, and after the peak of Stray, the standard was maintained with an awe-inspiring set from Pearl Handled Revolver. The hazy, intense Hammond-soaked set oozed with emotion and this was one of the tastiest sets of the weekend – I'm ticking off the days until their new album is released.
After a ride on the Tygers Of Pan Tang's NWOBHM time machine we had the pleasure of being in the company of icon Uli Jon Roth, whose 40th Anniversary Scorpions Tour is a must-see. His band are brilliant, including the young Ali Clinton who had impressed with his own band yesterday, and Uli commands so much respect and affection as well as jaw-dropping respect.
Royal Southern Brotherhood continued the party with their special brand of fluid and harmonic groovy blues played with a massive dose of Southern heart and soul. It was slick but maintained a rootsy feel – a real class act.
And so as Black Star Riders took to the stage with a mix of originals and classic Thin Lizzy and they absolutely excelled. BSR were in fact the perfect headliners; every song was a total winner and the audience just lapped it all up and created an atmosphere that will long be remembered.
This was the band's last gig of the year so it was a surprise that they didn't party longer into the night. Consequently it was a good job that MetalTalk were on hand to help empty the bar.
Legends Of Rock finished in style.
These three days had been amazing, so much laughter, great company and amazing bands in an impeccably organised event. To quote the afore-mentioned Dougal, it was so epic it made Ben Hur look like a commercial for Turkish Delight.